Officials Unveil Astoria Theater Plans
By Luis Gronda
A long-discussed plan to bring a music venue to Astoria may soon come to fruition.
|A rendering of the performance space proposed for the Astoria Pool. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks Dept.|
Parks Dept. officials discussed preliminary plans at a public meeting on Feb. 20 to build a brand-new amphitheater in the vacant Astoria Pool, situated between the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the Hell Gate Bridge. The plan would renovate the historic pool while establishing a concert venue for Astoria’s emerging music scene.
The pool will be paved over with concrete and the area surrounding it will be renovated, including the famous diving board which will be left as a reminder of what used to be in that space. The theater will be, in its first carnation, 37,000-square-feet and will hold 500 people. Kevin Quinn, director of architecture for the Parks Dept., said that the theater will be built in a way that will allow them to expand the capacity to 2,500 in the future, if needed.
Most of the residents at the meeting were elated to hear of the City agency’s plan to build the venue, as it will put to use the diving pool area, which has been closed since 1980.
“It’s time that we had a world-class venue,” said Richard Khuzami, member of Community Board 1 and head of the board’s Parks & Recreation/Cultural Affairs committee. “It’s a great replacement for the mosquito-infested breeding ground that we’ve had there for the last 35 years.”
Two concerns raised during the presentation were the kind of bathrooms that would be available for concert attendees as well as the wall separating the performance space from the area where the rest of the pool is located.
When questioned by residents on the restrooms planned for the facility, Quinn said that, at least for the first phase of building the theater, they would install port-o-potties, similar to what are used at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, surrounding the venue. The reason for this, according to Quinn, is that it would be too expensive to build permanent bathrooms for this phase and have enough money to complete the rest of the project.
“It’s either we have a bunch of restrooms with no reason for being there or we have the stage with no restrooms,” Quinn said.
CB 1 Vice Chairperson George Stamatiades was concerned with the wall, saying it is not high enough and people that are in the pool could potentially disturb an ongoing performance.
“A four-foot fence on the north side is not going to cut it when you have a performance going on,” he said.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) attended the meeting as well, saying people in Astoria have been waiting decades for their own music venue and that area will become a big part of the community once again.
“I consider it a great start. I don’t think it’s going to be everything everybody wants, but it’s going to be a great start,” Vallone said.
Many residents asked Parks Dept. officials about how it will be organized in terms of ticketing and pricing, with Quinn responding that that will be up to the theater’s operator. Construction on the project could begin in 18 months, according to Parks Dept. presentation.
The pool was opened in 1936 while Robert Moses was the City’s Parks Commissioner and it hosted swim tryout for the Olympics on the year it opened and again in 1964.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.